Toxic People

Who are they? Do you know any?

Surprisingly, although I was in an abusive relationship for years, and sought counseling off and on for many different issues, up until this last therapist no one had ever used the word ‘Toxic’ when speaking with me. Rather, we focused on other things such as: How do I deal with my codependency? How much responsibility in a relationship is mine? How can I build up my self-esteem? What is healthy and unhealthy in a relationship? Etc. But never, not once, did I ever hear any of them utter the word toxic. Perhaps if they had it would’ve given me a jolt and woke me up a lot quicker than needling me through sessions with other namby-pamby words. Toxic is a very powerful word. When you hear it your mind instantly begins to form a mental picture of a glaring, neon sign that screams, “Warning! Warning! Contents are extremely harmful and should be handled with the utmost caution! Could cause serious debilitation, possibly death!” When someone uses the word ‘Toxic’, your ears perk up and you immediately pay attention. It’s that kind of powerful.

I sat through nearly a year of sessions with this particular therapist and the word was never brought up. We dealt with the stress brought about from my DUI, the suicide of my best friend five months later, the harsh conditions that following winter I was forced to endure living in my home without any real source of heat, and having to do without water for months because the pipes all froze and cracked. We talked about the love/hate feelings I had for my husband, the impact my parents deaths had on me, family secrets, etc. We focused so much on these things that I can’t blame her for not seeing the forest for the trees. After all, she was under the assumption that this person who was always at my side during this time, was in fact good for me. Possibly because I never knew she wasn’t either, and found no reason to give insight into our relationship beyond her coming to my assistance. The illusion was that she was always there to help me.

I’d had to stop seeing my therapist the summer of 2009 because it became increasingly difficult to get into town for appointments. I had no cause for concern at the time, because I seemed to be dealing with things much better. So much so that I even went off my anti-depressants. I flew down and spent a wonderful, relaxing week with Pandora Patty at her place, and came back feeling refreshed, spirited, and ready to conquer anything. It wasn’t until after, when several months later winter would come calling and I would leave my home in a fit of desperation and stay with this toxic person at her insistence for a couple months, that I realized what kind of influence she was having on me. An influence my therapist would finally recognize as ‘Toxic’.

Do you know the quickest way to tell if someone is toxic for you? There are countless websites out there that deal with the subject and give a myriad of characteristics to look for: They may gossip uncontrollably about you, and constantly make snide remarks to and about you. They may find fault in everything you do, your thoughts, feelings, and opinions are completely discounted. They might belittle and judge you, and take every opportunity available to undermine your credibility to others. They can be jealous, controlling, manipulative, over-demanding, defensive, angry, and disrespectful…just to name a few. They have a tendency to insert themselves into others lives and/or situations that have little if anything to do with them, and begin to make it all about them. Being in their presence—whether in person, on the phone, or inadvertently through conversation with another they’ve spoken to about you—usually leaves you feeling unsettled, unhappy, and lacking self-worth, because they are emotionally-draining. In short: If you feel worse about yourself in their presence than not, they’re toxic.

This description appears to be very cut-and-dried and leaves little room for the imagination. This person should be obvious to spot, thereby raising red flags. They are in fact, NOT! Among their other obvious charms they are also very deceptive. Often—as was in my case—in order to achieve their goal of putting you and others down in order to feel better about themselves, they must first draw you in. They prey on the neediness of others, inserting themselves into lives by appearing to want to help, be of assistance in some way. They disarm you with this guise, and then begin to consume your time and attention throughout this ruse. They are so damn helpful at first, quick to leap to your defense, and seem to genuinely care about you as they encourage you to share all of your travails with them. For a time they appear to be a Godsend, until the inevitable happens…they begin to resent you for accepting their help.

When this occurs—and it will—they will begin to share the travails they now have by carrying the weight of yours, with everyone. This may seem like an awful lot of unnecessary effort, but it’s not. Their mad desire to be interesting and the center of attention drive them. In order for them to reach the stature that they feel is required to stand on a podium and exclaim to any and everyone who will listen how wonderful they are and how much they do for others, they must first log in the hours and effort. Ultimately, it pays off for them in the end. They get the recognition they crave. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fare quite as well for the victim of their ruse. It always seems to be a win-win situation for this toxic person. Once you realize what their true intentions were, what they’ve done, who they really are, and then attempt to put distance between yourself and them, they have a new use for that podium: To cite every little thing they ever did for you. How much they cared about you. And how now you are being so damn ungrateful and want nothing to do with them. They have set themselves up to appear to be a victim themselves in order to gain sympathy.

It didn’t take long once I started attending my counseling sessions again for my therapist to ‘spot’ this problem. And probably never would’ve occurred at all had I not being staying with this person and sunk into despair so deep I began to entertain the thought of taking my own life. In desperation I made an appointment and resumed counseling again. That was when my counselor finally started asking the right questions. “Why, now that you’re away from your home and the bleak conditions you’ve been living with, are you still unhappy; if not appear to be worse? Why, given the support you obviously now have from this person are you feeling so alone, empty, worthless, and without hope? What exactly has been going on with you since last we spoke?”

Continued tomorrow………..


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8 Comments on “Toxic People”

  1. Spectra says:

    There are no evil Kittys. Only Kitty-haters.

    Our blogs are our place to vent and be ‘right’. Our own personal channel. We are the stars, the heroes, and flawed, but only in a lovable way, mind you!

    I think that what you pointed out is so true- when we end the connection, we hurt because we do lose the friend, also. But that’s the part that keeps us sticking around too long for more hurt.

    This one woman turned out to also be very OCD, which is described as an anxiety disorder. And I agree, she had identity issues. She was defined by those she connected to (husband, daughter) so she had to “re-make” me to her liking in order to be connected to me, Which meant trying to stop me from being who I am. Which was rediculous because I have a pretty strong self-image. But she went after whatever weakness she could find: eg: When it rains, or walking near the ocean, my hair frizzes out and is a mess, so I keep it clipped up. This was an embarressment and she saw that, and hit on the same thing, over and over, always complaining about my hair. It was cruel, really. But she refused to stop. It was a way to keep me feeling insecure. I even would yell at her to stop.

    Oh, well. I got really messed up afterwards. Went into a depression. Lots of anger. What I had needed to do was just YELL at her. Lots! But I was a guest, you see. And it damaged my friendships with that side of my friends family.

    You know, I let 3 friends go, but that just made room for 3 new friendships! I think I held on to one for so many years because I didn’t think I’d make new friends. I was afraid of having noone to just be friends with, chit chat about the little things in life, ya know? But letting go made room for more. It’s okay now. Identifying toxic relationships is important for our health, emotionally, mentally. I guess if someone doesn’t want to give you what you need when you tell them,(and I did) then it’s time to move on.

    Anyway, your husband should appreciate that you have a place to go and bitch things out, instead of at him! 😉

    • Well, you may have made room for 3 new friends when you lost them, but I only have so many biological sisters, and those can’t be replaced. In a situation like that you kinda gotta ‘suck-it-up’ and work around it.
      As for your hair… I’m sorry, I know you’re probably sensitive about it, but truly…is that all she had to work with to pick on you was your hair? I’d say you’re beyond fortunate if it is.
      I’m no one to preach, because I can find a bazillion things that drive me nuts about myself: I hate that I have fair skin and can’t tan for shit (not so much a big deal now, but it really sucked when I was young and hanging out with friends on the beach, and the freckles I had back then..yikes!). I wish my hair weren’t nearly 100% gray at my young age and didn’t have to keep coloring it; and that it wouldn’t keep breaking off at the nape of my neck. I wish my tits were as perky as they were before I breast-fed three kids. I wish I didn’t have this damn, muffin-top that somehow found it’s way around my middle. More than that, I wish I had done more with my life, and that mine compared to those I know didn’t seem so inadequate. We all have things that bother us about ourselves. The funny thing I’ve found though, is that most people don’t even pay attention to them or see them as flaws; only we do. My best friend thinks I’m beautiful and says she’d love to look like me. I just don’t see it, and would just kill to have her body and olive skin. I guess we all need to start focusing more on what we do have, and less on what we don’t, huh?
      As for my husband not liking my blog, that’s not fact, just an observation. He’s the type that wouldn’t think of sharing anything personal with strangers. You can barely get him to open up to friends. And blogging won’t stop me from bitching. He gives me far too many reasons why I should 🙂 Besides, it’s inherited. My mother was the Queen of Bitches, and proud of it when she was still alive.

  2. Spectra says:

    WOW! PissyKitty! This just hit the deepest available nerve in me right now.

    I ended, or, “broke up” with 3 freinds in the past 2 years, over the toxic nature of how they, and their rotten egos, seemed to feed on me.

    The thing you said about how they resent you for helping you…I actually had a friend who I got to know in CA through her brother-in-law, my friend (then) of 16 years. I flew out there to help with his sick mother staying with this daughter-in-law. I stayed up nights, gave medicine and insulin shots and other treatments, so she(the sister-in-law of my long-term friend) could sleep…it all became about her. In her delusional mind, I showed up, a complete stranger (there to help a long term friend and his mother, once my roomate) it was all about her. I existed to help her. to serve her. She, in later visists, began to have jobs for me to do when I came, like clean out the garage and help her work of a debt to her mother…like a servant.

    It got worse. She was never satisfied with my appearance or clothing, and always mocked me in a “helpful” way, no matter how often I told her to stop it! She picked on my hair, yet admitted she wished she had thick long hair like me. We went to Weight Watchers, and she complained I was too thin to go, but would never admit just how much weight she needed to lose (50 lbs) and you know, it just got more and more toxic. She demeaned me at every turn (I stayed for 2 months) and turned others who liked me against me.

    My point is ( I am very emotuonally triggered by reading your post and experiences right now) is that I HEAR you, I FEEL you, and I have BEEN you.

    Thank you so much for having the clarity of heart to post this. I know it will help many who struggle with confusing relationships- the romantic ones are not the only harmful relationships we engage in! I think that may be the most confusing revelation!

    • You’re right. You are me! Perhaps a different situation, but the problem and results were the same. Doesn’t that completely suck? You know, sadly, what I’ve found is that these people are really self-loathers. They don’t want, or can’t deal with their own identity issues, so they deflect the problem onto you. By concentrating on what they see as someone elses flaws it makes it easier to ignore their own. Unfortunately, it’s always the ones closest to us that are capable of doing it, and when we walk away we lose more than the toxic person, but also the friend or loved one they are deep down that made us care about them in the first place. Of course, that too is easy to get over after they’ve spent so much time trying to strip us of our dignity, embellish every story to paint themselves as a martyr of sorts, and manage to sully our reputations with this poison. Yep, it makes it damn easy to move on!
      I’m glad you were able to take something away from it. I worry sometimes that my honesty is too dark, but my only desire is that someone else might be able to relate and feel so not alone with their pain. I know about loneliness. No good ever comes from it. I personally know there are people out there that don’t like what I say–I think I could probably include my husband in that mix–but this is my life, I did what I did, I am who I am, it’s a little late now to be ashamed of it, don’t you think? And if someone else has wronged me and has a problem with my sharing it, my response is, “Hey, maybe you shoulda thought about that before you did it! You don’t like it, get your own blog and rant back. This one is mine!” God I’m an evil kitty, aren’t I?

  3. Great post. I have become a master at recognizing toxic relationships in my life, and more importantly, at letting them go…

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog.
      Yes, once you’re able to recognize one toxic relationship, it’s hard not to notice another, isn’t it. The hard part though is being able to let them go…

  4. I use th term ‘energy theieves’ rather than toxic , but basically means the same thing, just people who are- all the things you mention above. They take your all of your energy and you keep asking yourself ‘why do I hang out with these people?’ , thats where th deception part comes in.

    I just recently ‘brok up’ with a friend of 4 years, it was tough to do but more and more recently he had become very very toxic. But partly because of th fact that he was dealing with his own history of problems but I didnt believe that to be reason enough to hurt me like he did, no matter how much of a good friend I tried to be.

    In short, just rid yourself of toxic, energy staling people, and surround yourself with energy givers.
    🙂

    • Very well put. Yes, they are energy thieves that steal your joy and and self-worth like soul-sucking vampires. The hard part though, if you are a person that tries to love and see the good in others, is accepting that they are and then dealing with your own guilt of having to turn your back on them to save yourself. Sadly, it matters little what direction you turn, it still ‘sucks to be you’ after they’ve been in your life.
      Good advice on surrounding oneself with energy givers. Tough part is finding them!